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Local Planning Guidance Note Number 3 - Converting Rural Buildings

This guidance note explains the approach which the Council takes towards dealing with proposals to change the use of and convert rural buildings. It supports and amplifies the relevant policies (particularly GDP1, H3, E5 and CLF9) contained in the Wrexham Unitary Development Plan.

The note will form a material consideration in the determination of planning applications.

This guidance note deals with proposals to convert rural buildings to other uses.

Background

There is a varied range of buildings in the countryside which are no longer suitable for their original purposes. The majority are likely to be agricultural buildings but there may also be churches, chapels, mills, schools, public houses, stables and others for which an alternative use is being sought.

Many of these buildings make a positive contribution to the character and appearance of the area. Provided they are structurally sound, conversion of these buildings, for example to employment or community use, visitor accommodation or housing can safeguard their future. By re-using existing resources, conversions can also meet the aims of sustainable built development.

However, there are some buildings which are not suitable for conversion, including those which are:

In particular, planning permission will not normally be granted if:

Part 1 - Development principles

With very few exceptions, it is essential that converted buildings should keep their original character and not have the appearance of being fundamentally new structures. The aim should therefore be to retain such key features as:

In circumstances where the building has no original or traditional features of merit, the Council will expect the design of any conversion to reflect the vernacular character and appearance of other buildings in the locality.

Proposals should therefore have regard to the design and layout principles set out below.

Walls

Roofs

Windows and Doors

Internal Features

Drainage and Waste

Heating and Ventilation

Extensions and Additions

Curtilage and Landscaping

Listed Buildings

Protected Wildlife

Part 2 - Converting agricultural buildings to dwellings

In the interests of maintaining the rural economy, the emphasis in national planning policy is upon maximising the re-use of redundant buildings for non-residential purposes. This approach is reflected in the Wrexham Unitary Development Plan.

Policy H3 in the Plan requires that, in the case of agricultural buildings, proposals for conversion to dwellings must demonstrate:-

Planning applications will therefore need to be accompanied by a supporting statement explaining why the building is no longer suitable; cannot be made suitable; or is now not required for agricultural purposes. The statement should also give the reasons why a conversion to a use other than housing is not practicable or desirable. The statement should therefore have regard to the material considerations listed in the shaded section below.

Where it appears that a building is suitable for non-residential use, applicants will be expected to advertise it for sale or lease for non-residential purposes prior to submitting a planning application. The results of the advertisement should be included in the supporting statement.

If no advertisement has been undertaken, the Council may request that this be done after submission of the application depending on the Chief Planning Officer's assessment of the case. However, if there is any doubt regarding the suitability of the building, advertisement will be essential. The minimum period for advertising a building as being potentially suitable for non-residential purposes will normally be six months unless otherwise specified by the Chief Planning Officer.

Whether before or after the application has been submitted, it is recommended that details of any marketing and advertisement procedures should be discussed and agreed with planning officers.

Material considerations when proposing to convert an agricultural building to a dwelling

General location

In many instances, buildings located in very remote areas will be unsuitable for non-residential uses. Delivery of goods may be difficult, distribution costs are likely to be high and sufficient staff may be unobtainable.

A location served by public transport may, however, be well suited to a range of uses.

Local road network

For road safety reasons, the intensive use of narrow, single-carriageway country lanes with few passing places is normally undesirable. If a building is served by an unclassified road less than 4 metres wide (as defined on the 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale Ordnance Survey Maps), its use for business, commercial or tourism purposes may therefore be inappropriate.

Site access

Where the site access is narrow and/or shared with other premises; or where visibility is obstructed by buildings and boundary walls, its use by significant levels of additional traffic may be hazardous. In such circumstances, conversion of the building to residential use may be the only safe option, although in extreme cases, even this may be unacceptable.

Parking

In many cases there will be no on-road parking available in the vicinity of the building. Nor is there likely to be any nearby off-road provision. Accordingly, a building suitable for non-residential use must have sufficient parking space within the existing curtilage, preferably with at least one space large enough for a delivery vehicle.

External appearance

Conversions of agricultural buildings should seek to maintain the agricultural character and appearance of the existing structure. While this can normally be achieved by residential conversions, commercial uses may require the insertion of larger windows, delivery doors, air vents and the attachment of other external equipment. Only if the building could be adapted without needing major external alterations is it likely to be suitable for non-residential purposes.

Scale and form of construction

Some farm buildings (particularly those of comparatively recent construction) resemble industrial units and rarely lend themselves to sympathetic residential conversion, Such buildings are clearly more suited to a non-residential use.

Adjoining buildings

A group of farm buildings may together have significant business or tourism potential which could be compromised if one is converted to a dwelling. Even where the other buildings remain in agricultural use, conflicts may arise between residents and farming activities. In such circumstances, a non-residential use may be the most appropriate option.

Proximity to existing business sites and buildings

Where there is a significant number of sites and buildings already available for business purposes in the locality (for example, on an industrial estate), it is unlikely that the need to retain agricultural buildings for commercial purposes will be very strong.

Planning history

A previous planning permission for residential conversion of the same building may be sufficient to outweigh the need to prove that another use would be more appropriate. Where permission has been granted for residential conversion within the same group of buildings, this may establish a precedent for converting the other buildings to residential use.

Part 3 - Information required

Applications for outline planning permission cannot be accepted for building conversions. All applications must be for full permission and include:

Applicants may also need to submit:

Pre-application discussions are welcomed together with the submission of sketch proposals for informal comment.

Adopted March 2006